May 21, 2005 [LINK]

Nesting Scarlet tanagers?

After a day of heavy rains, the skies cleared this morning, and hungry birds filled the tree tops. As soon as I stepped outside I heard the tsee-tsee-tsee song of the briefly-abundant Blackpoll warbler, and within a couple minutes I spotted one up in the branches. Strolling behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad I heard other Blackpoll warblers, as well as a loud Wilson's warbler, which soon popped into view at close range. It was in virtually the same place where I saw one on May 10, quite a coincidence. They nest further north, however, so it's very unlikely to have been the same individual. Further along the trail I heard and saw three Indigo buntings, two of which had the blotchy blue-and-ash plumage of first-year males but sang loudly nonetheless. In the hilltop neighborhood off to the east, I heard the enchanting, unreal song of a Veery, an elusive member of the thrush family I haven't actually seen in five years. Reaching the bend where the final leg of the trail begins, I heard the unmistakeable melodic burry song of a Scarlet tanager, as well as the "CHIP-brrr" contact call. I spotted the male near the top of a tree a few minutes later, and was thrilled that there may be a nesting pair in those woods. I also caught a glimpse of a female Towhee nearby; the males have fallen silent all of a sudden, and were nowhere to be seen. I estimate there must be at least five breeding pairs of Towhees in that wooded ravine. Toward the end of the trail I saw two female Blackpoll warblers as well as a female Redstart.